Manifesto Translations Prose & Poetry Letters to B Musings Words Culture & Music Other Works Copyright
Official Site Q & A Biography Discography Concert Reports Magazine Reports Articles News Reports News Videos Pictures Pick of the Day Links

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Making of a Moment [3]

Main | Part one | Part two | Part three

Three weeks later

My time in Istanbul was better than I could have imagined.

I've been back in England for a while now. I'm working on a few things, buckling down to clear away some of my correspondence and connect with some of our readers. A request from Trudy from Bristol in England caught my eye.

I found the lyrics for the Alaturka song so if you could do the honours and translate it for me I would be very grateful ... I will look forward to receiving your most poetic renditions of [this song] and must thank you again for all your work and being so dedicated. Just think - if everyone had a compulsive hobby or interest no-one could be bothered to make wars. Get everyone bellydancing including the men and especially world leaders! Bellydance is a great way to relate to people – I hope that you are learning!

Pushing down images of Barack Obama and his peers gyrating their bellies that the email conjured up so early in the morning, I didn't think I'd be belly dancing any time soon, although I agreed with the sentiment.

As "Alâturka" ("Allaturca" or in this context "Turkish Songs") is one of my favourite tracks (and her mail made me smile) I emailed back my rough first draft translation of a song covered by Tarkan in the 2008 album IZ. What the heck, I hadn't accepted a reader's request for a translation for quite some time now.

Some will wonder just exactly what "alâturka" means. Strictly speaking it is a label attached to something "of the Turks". It can be used to describe anything, and indeed it has been, from the derogatory to the delightful. "Alâturka" is a personal view; one that no doubt will have been influenced by our own culture and what it has historically attached to the Turks, or what they have attached to themselves.

Moments in Translation

When I'm translating lyrics, I always like to listen to the song in question with my earphones, because I feel it gets me closer to the song. Intimacy brings out the details. I've written about the nuances of the Turkish language before, but a translation needs to - as much as it can - evoke the feelings it does in the original to a native listener.

I try to approach it like my own poetry. Each word has its perfect partner to the meaning in context. It takes time for it to be found. But when it is unearthed, when you know that the moment of discovery is made, there is a feeling of satisfaction that makes it worth the effort.

It's not easy, and I won't say I'm always successful, but that is the goal I set myself with every translation I do. It's because of the arduous process I set that I rarely translate lyrics now - even if the satisfaction I feel at the end does undeniably justify the perfectionist means.

Ultimately, of course the end result of a translation should always be a reflection of the original - to use one of my often used metaphors - we take a little bit of the sun to create moonlight, but if we respect the source, the intimate light we provide will get readers through a night of incomprehension.

<< Read more: On translating Turkish lyrics | About words >>

Moments of Music

In musical terms, Turkish classical music (which long-term readers will know is one of my favourite genres) has been nicknamed allaturca to differentiate it from music that has journeyed into the Turkish musical lexicon through what they view as the western side of their compass.

The song "Alâturka" - a Sezen Aksu and Fahir Atakoğlu piece originally released in 1994 - is not only a song composed in a Turkish neo-classical style, it is also a tribute to this genre it hails from.

And in this rendition of the song, as one of our own music commentators has said, Tarkan shows us he is a master at allaturca.

On one level, it evokes imagery of a style of music that is often seen as a metaphor for bitter-sweet melancholia. It is bitter-sweet because, to adapt the lyrics in example, although night descends, that's when the heavens reign and the stars roam the sky. To gaze at the stars, you need the sun to go down.

On another - more immediate level - the lyrics are about someone who has failed in love, and seeks solace in the city's night and Turkish music. It details group of players playing their songs as the night falls at a taverna by the Bosphorus, and about a listener who is reminded of his heartless love. It is all about the making of a moment in tribute to a lost loved one.

I had paid some personal tributes during my trip to Istanbul on Valentine's Day last month, and had decided to keep to myself the memories from my own evening of "allaturca" spent on one of the city's islands thanks to my sister-in-law.

As it became an intensely personal night, I was going to wrap up the post as a two-parter instead of the initial third part I had planned - when translating the song "Alâturka" made me realise there was something more I wanted to share on the blog, after all.

Moments in Tribute

I had awoken the next day to the theme tune to The Godfather; a text message to my mobile phone had given me an unplanned early morning wake up call prior to my journey out to the islands.

It was Adelind asking me to check my mails. I don't like to break with my tradition of making a clean break with the internet when I'm on holiday, but I trust Adelind. She knows me well enough, so I knew it must be an emergency.

I was in one of the en-suite rooms on the ground floor; my brother's computer room is on a mezzanine floor between the one I was on and the first floor of their villa. I had showered and dressed quickly, keeping an eye on the time. It was approaching seven in morning, and way too early to be getting up. The help would be up, but I highly doubted my brother would be.

He has become a night person, and rarely wakes up before noon. It's something he has picked up from the residents of Zekeriyaköy, the village in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul where he lives. Everyone seems to start the day here towards the middle of it, and end it towards the beginning.

I left my room and headed for the stairs. The computer room is situated in a niche of the stairway that curves up to the first floor; once in and connected I saw what Adelind wanted me to see: the in box was bursting to its limit with literally hundreds of mails.

Quicker than I had expected after my second post, there were emails suggesting places in Istanbul to find an accommodating table for an evening of serenading the Bosphorus. (I had felt relief that Istanbul hasn't completely succumbed to a sterile synchronization with European Union public procurement laws - although they can certainly do away with the carpet sellers.)

But there were other emails, too - of condolence, of praise, of such love that it was like a huge tidal wave. There was a flagged note from Adelind at the top.

What you see is the love you have given to us all these years. You made this moment. Don't be surprised, though I know you will be.

I'm embarrassed to say it, but making such a connection had me all choked up.

Moments of Connection

Listening to Tarkan's perfect tonal rendition of Aksu's "Alâturka" while I worked on the translation reminded me of that moment, because he is all about making connections. He knows how to connect with his voice.

I'm not going to dwell on the anti-drug sting the singer was caught up in toward the end of February, but listening to this 2008 song shows he is no Turkish example of Whitney Houston - who abused drugs so much as to burn out her voice. Tarkan resonates here. The music heals.

Imagine for one moment those who think he is a cocaine addict couldn't be further from the truth. Imagine the very worst of it is he got a friend to get him some weed, (although the artist is known for publicly renouncing smoking) and that his only real mistake has been the bad choice of friends he has made of late.

I'm not belittling the police investigation, or the attempts to crack down on drug use within celebrity circles in Turkey. Nor am I Tarkan's defence lawyer. And let's just say that if at the end of it all we were to find out Tarkan was guilty - should any mistakes he might have made negate the back catalogue of memories he has given us?

Does all Tarkan has done get swept away for being human?

<< Read about Tarkan's four day detainment by Turkish authorities here

Listening to Tarkan sing "Alâturka" reminded me how much I want him to go back to his classical training and release a revival album, but it also reminded me of what Tarkan has given so many of us over the years. I grew up with his music; so I will always be indebted to Tarkan. I will readily accept I am biased.

However, to the artist's fans who will naturally be upset by the news, or angry to think they don't know who Tarkan is any more, I would suggest we take a moment to close our ears to all the media buzz, and just listen to Tarkan sing.

That is where we'll find him.

If I'm honest, we won't find him in this blog's News Section or its main index page. You'll find out about him here, thanks to the hard work of the blog's team - but the only Tarkan you really need to know is the one that sings, because that is what makes Tarkan, Tarkan.

For all his long absences, all his inadequacies at connecting with his fans through other media, this is the one place where he never fails to connect. In my humble opinion, it is the only place where he can be held up to criticism, because this is the only thing we have the right to ask of him to do well.

To sing to the best of his ability, to make music that heals us, makes us fall in love, to continue helping us make those moments that'll keep us company as we pay tribute to our lives and to those we love - to show us the stars when night falls.

That is all he has ever promised to give us. It should be enough. In an ideal world, the moments he makes in his private life should be for him alone, because, in as much as we need to share with others, sometimes there are things we also need to keep to ourselves.

I can understand how to some the relationship between fan and idol can be so real, because the effect of their music on our lives and the moments we make with their music is just as real as anything else.

But if we love someone, we give them their space.

<< Other Tarkan articles >>

Making a Moment with Tarkan

To help some of his fans re-connect with Tarkan again, I have decided to brush up the rough draft of my translation of "Alâturka" I sent to Trudy and share it on the blog. It's not great, but I am satisfied with it, and it might bring greater understanding to those readers not knowledgeable in the language who wish it.

Influenced by my last trip to Istanbul, I have prepared a video to go with the song and my translation, too, in the hope that listeners enjoy the song just that little bit more.

To do my own metaphor to death, in using our own sunlight as our medium, we have tried to shine a light on Tarkan and shine his light in this blog to help his listeners and to remind us all why we starting listening to him in the first place.

So, when all the media circus about him gets too much for Tarkan's fans, I suggest they come and listen to "Alâturka" to re-connect with him again. For we all will, through time and for whatever reason, have to re-evaluate our relationships: as parent, as child, as husband or wife - or even the one between fan and idol.

But I have also shared this with you today to explain one thing I learned on my own "allaturca" night.

True love doesn't change. Only our connections with it do.

Let's hold on to that when there are dark days ahead.

Alâturka by Tarkan

Two different versions of my translations depending on your preference for symbolism.

2010 Copyright Notice. All rights reserved. This video cannot be used in any way without the permission of the relevant copyright owners. Please click here for further info.

Watch more: Subtitled Tarkan videos 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 >>
Re-synced Tarkan music videos 1 | 2 | 3 >>

Alâturka Original Credits:
Recording Artist: Tarkan (from the 2008 album IZ)
Lyricist: Sezen Aksu
Composer: Fahir Atakoğlu

Production Credits:
Production and Editing by Tarkan DeLuxe
Titles and Effects by WMM
English Translations: Ali Yildirim

Go back to Main

See also: Valentine's Day Specials

Read more: On Love | My Say >>

Creative Commons License

© CC License 2004-18. Unless otherwise stated all poetry, prose and art are the original work of the blog owner.